© Tom M Johnson

Lakewood: Portrait of a Los Angeles suburb

A slight elderly woman, her hair perfectly quaffed, Louise had a very particular way of watering her garden lawn. To protect her hand from the chill of the water she wore a luminous orange mitt. “Without wanting to interrupt the moment I got right in front of her and just started taking photographs,” says photographer Tom M Johnson, reflecting on the portrait. “What makes the image unique is that, even though Louise is looking towards my direction, it was as if she was completely unaware of my presence. It wasn’t until I finished my roll of film and looked up away from the viewfinder that Louise looked at me and asked: ‘What are you doing?’ I smiled and replied, ‘Just making pictures.’ At the time it didn’t seem appropriate to ask her anything. So I just packed up my camera and went back to mum’s house.” 

Words: Anya Lawrence

Throughout the Meet California competition submission period, Studio 1854 wrote a series of editorials profiling photographers that live and work in the state. In 2011, Tom M Johnson started documenting the very neighbourhood in which he grew up. “It was necessary to leave Lakewood in order to appreciate it,” he says. “Growing up, it was just so normal but it seems special now.”

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